“All people deserve access to delicious and nutritious food,” says Deanna Fernweh of NCO’s Community Kitchen Project (CKP). “This project will feed our homeless neighbors, provide a variety of support services to those in need, and develop job skills for cooks-in-training.”
A project of North Coast Opportunities, the CKP is a collaboration between the City of Lakeport, Lakeport Police Department and Woodland Community College. It aims to support Lakeport residents experiencing homelessness or food insecurity by serving ready-to-eat meals and water, twice per week. Utilizing the new commercial kitchen inside the Silveria Community Center, Fernweh is joined by Chef Jerry Phillips in her mission to feed and support the hungry while offering culinary training. “Feeding people is just the beginning,” adds Fernweh. “In partnership with Woodland Community College, we’ll give students culinary instruction for college credit, allowing them to expand on their growing skillset.” Phillips, with over 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry, understands the local difficulties of hiring trained cooks. “This project has it all – it feeds people in need, develops culinary skills in college students, provides on-the-job training to people getting back on their feet, and creates a hiring-pool for local restaurant owners.”
The project began serving meals in late August, starting with direct food-delivery to Lakeport homeless encampments. Using all biodegradable products, ready-to-eat food is handed to encampment residents by CKP staff, students, and volunteers. Eventually, the project hopes to expand into a permanent site or a mobile delivery model. Sample menu items include roasted chicken and grilled vegetable burritos, braised tri-tip and mashed potatoes, pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches and coleslaw, lemon herb roasted chicken with quinoa sauteed greens, and so much more. Using a one-on-one approach to build rapport, the goal is to offer additional support services, like referrals to NCO’s New Digs Rapid Rehousing Program, NCO’s Building Homes, Building Lives Program, and referrals to other NCO programs and partner agencies. “We can’t help people unless we first take the time to get to know them and understand their needs,” says Fernweh. “Food is comfort. Food builds trust.” In partnership with Red Cross, the CKP also provided ready to eat meals to Cache Fire evacuees residing at the evacuation shelters.
The CKP is funded through some small grants but mostly relies on contributions from the City of Lakeport and local donations. “We are thrilled to be working with NCO on this new project,” adds Kevin Ingram, Lakeport City Manager. “This is the first step in a larger plan to support and ultimately reduce, Lakeport’s growing homeless population.”
With a focus on nutrition and sourcing local ingredients, the CKP plans to offer its menu items to all Lake County residents at local events. “Rest assured that all of Lake County will be able to eat from our menu!” adds Phillips. “We plan to be a food vendor at events, often relying on our students to cook and serve.”
While the project is now serving vulnerable residents inside Lakeport City Limits, the project hopes to expand to other parts of the county in the coming year. “This project is about so much more than food,” adds Robyn Bera, NCO’s Director of Community Projects. “We have a pipeline of wrap around services and a network of partners with the overarching goal of helping people work through their barriers, build job skills and find employment, and ultimately secure permanent housing.” CKP staff is currently researching options to expand this project into a mobile, sliding-scale restaurant, allowing customers to simply, “pay what they can,” supporting equality and dignity for everyone in our community.
The success of this new project depends on the community. If you would like to volunteer, donate funds, donate food, learn more, or get involved, please contact Deanna Fernweh at (707) 998-8602 or visit our Facebook page for updates. Donations are also accepted through our website at https://bit.ly/3Ae2OQ8. The launch of this project is due largely to our current and generous supporters. Thank you to Lakeport Lions Club, Lakeport Kiwanis Club, Lakeport Rotary, Woodland Community College and Redwood Empire Food Bank.
NCO is the Community Action Agency that serves Lake and Mendocino Counties, as well as parts of Humboldt, Sonoma, Del Norte, and Solano Counties. NCO reacts and adjusts to community needs, including homeless advocacy and response. For more information visit www.ncoinc.org.